DUBAI: Demand for automation services in customer service is growing in the Middle East, as the technology presents big opportunities in driving “tremendous amounts of return on investment,” a key technology player in the region told Arab News.
“The Middle East has always been very important. Our key customers in the region include Carrefour, and a few other retail chains as well,” Raghu Ravinutala, chief executive officer and founder of Yellow.ai, said.
Financial services firms, retailers, and government institutions are driving the demand for customer services automation, he said.
The India-based company provides enterprises with technology that claims to improve customer experience through messaging and voice channels using automation.
“Imagine an airline company – when a customer comes in and asks for rescheduling a flight, instead of a human handling that conversation, it is an artificial intelligence (AI) agent that handles the call and goes ahead enabling the transaction,” Ravinutala explained. 'Chatbots' is a term used to describe this technology.
He said the regional demand is due to companies increasingly realizing the benefits of the technology in driving commerce and marketing, as well as supporting actual sales.
Automating customer experience allows companies to consistently communicate with their clients, Ravinatula said, and the technology presents a cheaper alternative to traditional call centers.
WhastApp messaging is particularly the product of choice for Yellow.ai’s clientele in the region, and the COVID-19 pandemic that shut physical stores down, drove up the adoption of this service.
“There is a natural adoption for messaging, and companies are essentially trying to provide what their customers are asking for,” the CEO said.
This is compared to the region’s slower adoption rate in the more advanced forms of automation in the customer service industry, such as voice deployments – where customers speak to a “robot," as they are taken through an automated menu of options to which they respond with their voice.
“Messaging is lightweight in terms of implementation, and the ROI is much higher in a sense that you have a much lower cost of acquiring the services,” Ravinatula said.
The statements come as the company accelerates its Middle East growth strategy, which includes increasing the size of its team in the region and investing in the application of the Arabic language in its products.
“We added Arabic as a language to our voice automation in a significant way. There is a lot of investment going on in making Arabic code language in terms of voice automation,” Ravinatula said.
Although language could be a tricky issue for customer service in the region where many nationalities reside, the Yellow.ai chief said it’s a “largely solvable problem.”
“We have seen voice deployments in multiple languages, but it’s just about the investment and amount of effort that companies need to make,” he said.
The startup, which has plans to move its headquarters from India to the US, recently closed a $78.15 million Series C funding round led by WestBridge Capital, and a part of the capital injection will be spent on its Middle East growth strategy.
With the rate of how technology is changing, and the increased investments in companies that develop them, Ravinatula said the customer service industry will soon see advanced AI applications and deployments.
“It will become more and more human-like in the interaction,” he said.
He said robots could soon be able to persuade and negotiate with people.
“The higher level of cognitive tasks that human beings are doing? I think they will have the capability to do that… The progression is towards making software interact with humans, and that’s the direction for the next 5 to 10 years.”